Jurgens Talks "Tangent: Superman's Reign"

Tue, January 8th, 2008 at 12:00am PST

Comic Books
Jeffrey Renaud, Staff Writer

"Tangent: Superman's Reign" #1 of 12 on sale in March

Dan Jurgens, the acclaimed writer and artist who killed the Man of Steel in 1993's landmark "The Death of Superman," is primed to tell the tale of Superman's supremacy in 2008 (the character's 70th anniversary) in the upcoming DC Comics maxiseries, "Tangent: Superman's Reign"

But Toto, this is not Kansas and Tangent Superman is not the Last Son of Krypton.

The Tangent Universe -- home to Earth-9 for those scoring at home-- was created by Jurgens ("Booster Gold," "Countdown") in 1997 and was further formulated over two years in a series of 18 one-shots featuring Jurgen-ized versions of tbe DCU's biggest names.

On Earth Tangent, Superman was a black New York City police officer named Harvey Dent who gained his superpowers (both physical and mental) courtesy of experiments conducted on him by Nightwing, a top-secret organization that played the role of that Earth's Big Brother.

"The Tangent Universe tells the story of an Earth greatly influenced by the presence of super-powered beings," Dan Jurgens told CBR News. "While the DCU Earth is essentially the same as our own, no more advanced in terms of technology or communications despite the existence of those qualities within the super-powered community, Earth Tangent is greatly influenced by all of that. Earth Tangent's economic, geographic and political landscapes are defined by the superhero community, whereas in the DCU those aspects exist unaffected by the superhero community.

"Think of it this way: on Earth Tangent, if a super-powered group had transporter units such as the Justice League had, transporter united would be more prevalent in common society."

Tangent Flash and Tangent Green Lantern resurfaced in "Justice League of America" #16
Believed destroyed for nearly a decade, Earth Tangent appeared in "Infinite Crisis" in 2006 and in "Ion" in 2007. In "Countdown" #40, it was explained that Earth Tangent exists as part of the new 52-Earths Multiverse, and is reached through a portal believed to be the lantern of Tangent Green Lantern.

In "Countdown: Arena," Monarch chose The Flash to represent Earth-9. Tangent Flash is Lia Nelson, a teenage superhero who enjoys celebrity status for being both the first baby born in space as well as a movie star. She can move at the speed of light, fly, teleport and manipulate holograms.

Along with Tangent Atom, Tangent Flash found her way to the DCU-proper (or New Earth) in "Justice League of America" #16, after a break-in at Guy Gardner's house, during which a petty criminal apparently opened the portal while stealing the lantern.

"It happened as a result of a combination of things," explained Jurgens, who acknowledged the return of Tangent Universe has been a long-time coming. "Way back in the beginning, we planned to do more Tangent projects and eventually bring the universe into contact with the DCU. Talk of that may have survived in the DC offices as [Executive Editor] Dan [DiDio] moved into his job. In any event, it was something he and I discussed for a couple of years and we finally got around to getting it done."

Jurgens said "getting it done" allows him to tell the story of how the Earth Tangent has evolved since it was last seen nearly a decade ago. "Ten years have passed, allowing us to make even more global and political changes," said Jurgens, referring to the original Tangent line's tendency to depict realistic consequences to superheroics. "It's a vastly different place than we last saw, and there is no doubt that Superman is now the most powerful man alive."

The original 1998 "Tangent Comics: Superman" one-shot
"The Tangent concept had legs," said Jurgens, looking back on the development of the original Tangent line. "There was a great deal of story potential to be mined. We had a reasonably simple guideline, which was to take the names of various DC characters and re-imagine them within the context of the Tangent Universe," said Jurgens. "It may sound a bit limiting but it really wasn't. There was a great deal of freedom involved and we had some terrific contributions from a lot of other creators."

And while it was a dream to mess around with decades-old DC mythos as he created the Tangent Universe -- his favorite Tangent characters include Green Lantern, Flash, Atom and Batman -- the best part for Jurgens was something far different. "I think what I had dreamed of more was playing around with a universe more directly influenced by the existence of extraordinary beings," explained Jurgens. "For example, if the technology existed to make exo-skeleton armor, doesn't it stand to reason that much of that technology would be available in the consumer market?"

Regardless of what Superman incarnation Jurgens is scripting, he's glad the one mourned the world over following his award-winning "Death of Superman" story was able to pull a Lazarus and return from dead.

"Superman, in most any form, should always be around," Jurgens said, conceding there was never any doubt Superman would return, and that the uncertainty stemmed more from how exactly it was all going to unfold. "When we did 'The Death of Superman,' the doubts came from the fact that when we started we never knew how we were going to bring him back. It could have been a real case of painting ourselves into a corner but instead it gave us the opportunity to cobble together a great story."

"Tangent: Superman's Reign" will factor into DC's big summer event, "Final Crisis." "We're going to reflect some of the evolutionary elements in 'Final Crisis,'" confirmed Jurgens, who added that nothing is planned for the Tangent superheroes to meet up with Jurgens' other creation, Booster Gold, the greatest hero you've never heard of!

"'Booster Gold' probably won't be a direct factor, though it might be nice to sneak something in," laughed Jurgens.

The original Tangent one-shots are reprinted in "Tangent Comics" Volumes 1 and 2 (vol. 2 on sale January 23)
Writing a 12-issue run on "Tangent: Superman's Reign" while penciling "Booster Gold" each and every month is keeping Jurgens plenty busy. "I'm having great fun working with Geoff Johns and Jeff Katz on 'Booster Gold.' I think we've crafted a very entertaining monthly book," explained Jurgens. "I don't know how long I'll be around but it's safe to say that I have no plans to leave."

It should also be noted here that in the Tangent Universe, Ultra-Humanite was Earth-9's supreme villain. With DCU's version wreaking havoc across time and space with Per Degaton and Despero, notably in "Justice League of America" #8-9 and "Booster Gold" #5 and a further upcoming arc in "Justice League of America," perhaps one of Superman's earliest foes is in for a big 2008, as well.

"Tangent: Superman's Reign" written by Jurgens with art by Matt Clark, Fernando Pasarin and Jesse Delperdang and cover by Carlos Pacheco and Jesus Merino begins March 19, 2008.

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